Sunday, June 14, 2009

FEC is Gutless: Makes Incredibly Bad Call

Boy, Tom DeLay sure could have used a Federal Ethics Commission like the one we have right now. Heck, he might still be in office.

Incredibly, the FEC issued a ruling on a request by Pete Visclosky (D – IND 1) to be able to tap into his $909,000 campaign fund in order to pay his legal bills, allowing him to do just that.

What legal bills, you might ask.

Well it seems that the Justice Department investigated some fundraising habits by and for Visclosky by a now-defunct group called PMA.

From Politico:

“The Justice Department is investigating PMA over allegations that the firm and its founder, former House Appropriations Committee aide Paul Maggliocchetti, used ‘straw man’ donors to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to lawmakers, including Visclosky.”

“PMA’s offices were raided by FBI agents in November, and the once highly successful firm has now gone out of business.”

Shades of TRMPAC and ARMPAC, huh?

And now, thanks to the FEC ruling, Visclosky can make use of that filthy lucre to pay his lawyers that are defending him against the Justice Department.

Here is the gist of their ruling (also from Politico):

“The allegations concern Representative Visclosky's campaign and duties as a Federal officeholder because Representative Visclosky allegedly received the contributions in question as part of his campaign, and his alleged actions regarding the congressional appropriations process are directly related to his duties as a Federal officeholder,” FEC lawyers wrote in a draft “advisory opinion” released today.”

“Therefore, based on the representations made in the advisory opinion request and accompanying news articles, the Commission concludes that the legal fees and expenses associated with the Federal investigation would not exist irrespective of Representative Visclosky's campaign or duties as a Federal officeholder.”

Get it? Now if Visclosky was hauled into court for, say, beating his wife, those funds would be off limits to him. However, because the allegations have to do with his ethical compass as a federal legislator, and he got the funds because he campaigned to be a federal legislator, then it’s OK to use them.

Last November we were all looking for Change, but I don’t think anyone had this kind of change in mind.


Anonymous said...

Since the Democrats are in total control now, is there any reason why they couldn't change this rule easily?

Anonymous said...

yes there is enough graft and corruption to go around in this industry. i like that bumper sticker that says fire congress, but i would add that we need to keep firing them until we find some honest people willing to turn their backs on all the legal lobby firms that control d.c. politics with those rotting strings attached. even our own "dishonest" pete offices as the freed marketing building of hwy 6 in sugar land. it must be wonderful to be that close to an agency that controls such large corporate client ad blocks that influence local media.

Hal said...

Anon 1, the FEC is not an agency that the Democrats control.

Anonymous said...

So there's no legislation that the Democrats and President Obama can pass to correct this situation?

They are helpless to solve this? Or at least prevent it in the future?

Anonymous said...

Since the Democrats can't do anything about this, I thought I'd offer an suggestion.

Even if ruled ok by the FEC (and there's no legislative solution), why not strip him of his Chairman's position on the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development if he insist on using campaign contributions in this manner?

Why won't they do this? Because they may need the ability to do the same sometime in the future?

It's a bad sitution, but the Democrats are powerless to do anything about it even though they control the White House and both houses of Congress. Kinda like smoking, completely powerless.

Anonymous said...

After the latest round of filling FEC positions, Dianne Feinstien said of the FEC Commissioners, "It’s a good team, a really good team."

And I know that there's a lot of political negotiations involved in filling the FEC, but best I can tell the Senate unanimously approved all of the existing Commissioners with the possible exception of Caroline C Hunter.

And both President Obama and Vice-President Biden were Senators at the time. So I assumed they were both very satisfied with the composition of the FEC or they would have fought for a different group of Commissioners.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard of creative financing?

Well, this is called a creative Legislative Ruling.

Anonymous said...

I read in the Houston Chronicle this morning that Democratic icon (and winner of the 2004 Presidential election) has asked the FEC to allow him to use $300,000 of his campaign funds to underwrite a movie and serve as Executive Producer. But he has honorably agreed to not accept a salary for his time on the project--but the details do allow for up to a 120% return on his campaign money. Let's see how the FEC, that the Senate (including should-be-President Kerry) unamiously confirmed, rule on this one.